Relationships between the integrity and function of lumbar nerve roots as assessed by diffusion tensor imaging and neurophysiology

S Y Chiou, P J Hellyer, D J Sharp, R D Newbould, M C Patel, P H Strutton

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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PURPOSE: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has shown promise in the measurement of peripheral nerve integrity, although the optimal way to apply the technique for the study of lumbar spinal nerves is unclear. The aims of this study are to use an improved DTI acquisition to investigate lumbar nerve root integrity and correlate this with functional measures using neurophysiology.

METHODS: Twenty healthy volunteers underwent 3 T DTI of the L5/S1 area. Regions of interest were applied to L5 and S1 nerve roots, and DTI metrics (fractional anisotropy, mean, axial and radial diffusivity) were derived. Neurophysiological measures were obtained from muscles innervated by L5/S1 nerves; these included the slope of motor-evoked potential input-output curves, F-wave latency, maximal motor response, and central and peripheral motor conduction times.

RESULTS: DTI metrics were similar between the left and right sides and between vertebral levels. Conversely, significant differences in DTI measures were seen along the course of the nerves. Regression analyses revealed that DTI metrics of the L5 nerve correlated with neurophysiological measures from the muscle innervated by it.

CONCLUSION: The current findings suggest that DTI has the potential to be used for assessing lumbar spinal nerve integrity and that parameters derived from DTI provide quantitative information which reflects their function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-903
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Early online date25 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Male
  • Neural Conduction
  • Spinal Nerve Roots
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Journal Article


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